January 5th, 2008

What’s wrong with KDE?

As a happy KDE user, I used to install Kubuntu on the computers of those relatives and friends of mine who wanted to make the switch to GNU/Linux. Now I install Ubuntu (because of Gnome), while I’m still a happy KDE user (eager to use KDE 4!).

The first time I installed GNU/Linux on someone else’s computer was on my girlfriend’s; it was Mandrake 9.x with KDE (yeah, it’s been a while). I was glad to see how happy she was with her brand-new, freedom-respectful, fully-featured system (even my mother-in-law loved it!).

Since then, I’ve installed Kubuntu on the laptops of my parents, my dear 8-years-old sister, other relatives and some friends of mine. Except for my little sister, they all complained about GNU/Linux being harder to use than Windows (but by “harder” they often meant “different”, as they expected GNU/Linux to look like Windows, despite I warned them); also, I often received phone calls and emails from them, asking for help with “Linux”.

So I tried something new, replace KDE by Gnome. When I went to Venezuela this summer, I replaced Kubuntu by Ubuntu on these computers and gave them a brief introduction to the new system… Since then, no one has ever asked me how to do something with GNU/Linux. I made another test with an aunt of mine who lives here in Spain, who by the way drove me crazy saying “Linux is hard to use; it sucks”, and it worked too; she’s now a happy GNU/Linux user.

Although this workaround has not worked with my girlfriend; she bought a new laptop some months ago, and I suggested her to use Ubuntu instead of Kubuntu, but Ubuntu simply lasted three days (or so) on her computer: She got tired of its extreme simplicity, and asked me to give her KDE back as soon as possible.

To be honest, I don’t understand why KDE is seen as something hard to use (it’s actually the most similar to Windows!). Indeed it has far more widgets and options than Gnome, but this makes it harder to use? In my case, it makes me more productive and more comfortable when working on the computer.

In the end, the fact is that I’ll only recommend Ubuntu to newcomers from now on, with a brief mention of Kubuntu if they seem to be curious about computing, specially now when a new version of KDE (which will ship more widgets/tools/objects) is on the way.


  1. Taco Buitenhuis on 05 Jan 2008 at 3:03 pm #

    I suspect windows may be just as hard to use as KDE, only it is much easier to find someone to answer questions about it.

    Another thing that may make KDE “difficult” is that it is visually overwhelming. Draw exactly the same form with a GTK theme and with a KDE theme, and somehow the GTK version will almost always look more clean (I guess there must be clean KDE themes out there too, but I don’t see them often). Add that most KDE interfaces have much more icons and menus and whatnot, and you see why GNOME is “easy”.

  2. Danijel Orsolic on 06 Jan 2008 at 12:58 am #

    That’s interesting… I also always thought KDE looked a bit clunky, no matter how much you try to make it look smooth and sexy like GNOME. Maybe GNOME interface actually is a bit more natural to most people. You have three main menus and then some quick icon launchers. The menus directly reflect their actual context. Applications for applications and programs, places for places in the system and system for configuring the system itself. It’s really spot on.

    Just goes to show people should show respect to both KDE and GNOME. While KDE may be more configurable and hence feel more powerful to those who are more experienced, GNOME has that natural appeal, simplicity and smoothness that makes artists and designers usually love it – people who are more likely to care about their desktop not just functioning great, but looking great too. :)


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    You're visiting the technical blog of Gustavo Narea, a Software Developer based in Oxford.